Friends, Romans, Healthy People, lend me your experience!
July 12, 2014 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I just started running, and just started using a Total Gym for upper body workouts. Should running cause pain in the medial collateral ligament in your knees? What about in the tibalias anterior? (Not shin splint pain - I know that one well. This is more like a high ankle sprain.) Should lat pulldowns cause pain and stiffness in the side of your neck going down into your shoulder and trapezius? Or crunches cause low back pain?


I haven't been really healthy for 20+ years. I have no context for current aches and pains and energy levels, since starting new medications that have me feeling better than I have since I was a teenager. I'm 36, and have about 80 lbs to lose to get REALLY healthy.

I have a laundry list of medical conditions that cause chronic pain in both joints and soft tissues, fatigue, GI upset, breathing troubles, memory loss, the whole ball of wax. But after another chronic pain diagnosis a couple months ago, I'm now on a drug cocktail that has me feeling FANTASTIC. I have energy! I have less pain! I can jog! I can do all the things!

The problem is, now I don't know what aches and pains are caused by the same old medical conditions, and what are "healthy" aches and pains. I don't know what fatigue is caused by the same old same old, and what a "healthy" level of fatigue is.

An example: For years and years, I have had pain in my knees. I tore the cartilage and ligaments in both when I was 13. Had surgery on my right knee to remove some cartilage and repair a ligament just before I turned 14. Multiple ligament tears in both knees over the last two decades. After starting this drug cocktail, they didn't hurt at all. First time in as long as I can remember that they haven't hurt.

I took up jogging a couple weeks ago, after consulting with my physical therapist and a personal trainer. Every other day, taking it easy to start, doing intervals. Bought the right shoes. Researched and studied to make sure I was doing it right. Sometimes, my knees hurt. But I have absolutely no idea if my knees hurt because my knees "always" hurt, or if my knees hurt because I've done something while jogging to make them hurt.

So please, healthy MeFites, tell me what healthy feels like!
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Delayed onset muscle soreness is the only pain that is 'good'. It's symmetrical, and happens 12-48 hours after working out, and feels sore (rather than sharp, tingly or burny). In general, anything that is asymmetrical, sharp, tingly, or burny, or happens while you're exercising, is a sign something about what you're doing isn't right, and that you need to stop and look at your form. But presumably your PT wants you to push through and tolerate some pain, or risk not benefiting from your exercise. Ask your PT what kinds of pain markers you need to be looking for.

Obviously, with a history, picking unusual *new* pains apart from your old pains isn't easy. Can you identify any subtle differences, at all? I think here, keeping a log of everything -- nutrition, workouts, kinds of pains experienced and when (like exactly, during which movements) -- could give you really useful information over time. There are various apps that can help with this.

(I guess your PT thinks running's ok... idk, I personally think that overweight people with pre-existing joint problems shouldn't run until they hit their goal weight, if ever. Every extra pound of weight is an additional three on the knees, and if you're not super careful with form... idk. I personally feel people can get similar benefits from walking -- fast, up hills, with intervals -- with less risk. But if you've got support for running, I guess, just watch yourself, log everything, and stop if anything weird-for-you happens.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:17 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

My first question is always, "Where did you get your shoes?" If the answer is not a running store, fit by a professional, that's going to be the first avenue of correction.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:18 PM on July 12, 2014

You just started running. You're 36 and haven't really been active like this in a while. I'm sure we can analyze it to death here, but the long and the short of it is that you're going to be sore in a lot of places for at least couple of weeks as your body adapts. Give it time, take some ibuprofen and stick with it.
posted by killdevil at 7:24 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're 80 lbs overweight, you've had knee surgery once and multiple torn ligaments in your knees, and you're taking a pain reliever cocktail for chronic pain? I don't care if your PT approved it, I would steer clear of running. Healthy feels like sometimes you get delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a workout, but healthy doesn't feel like joint pain. And no, you shouldn't be having lower back pain from doing crunches either. Crunches are (a) not a great exercise to begin with; and (b) intended to work out your abs, which if they are working correctly is where you may feel some muscle pain. In your abs. Lower back pain should not be part of the program.
posted by drlith at 9:58 PM on July 12, 2014

As had been said, the pain you are describing sounds unusual.

I commend your efforts to get healthy, but you might benefit by easing yourself into a fitness regime.

I speak from experience: after on and off jogging for a few years, last year I started to (try to) take it more seriously. I started jogging every second day. I did sprints to increase my pace. After a few months I ended up with a problematic knee. It hasn't fully gone away and I now realize it's due to a problematic hip. I wish I'd never started training with that intensity as I don't think the injury would exist if I hadn't. I now jog once a week max.

I would suggest you look at your training more holistically. Jogging and weights are intensive exercises. Could you also include some yoga or pilates to build your strength and endurance? They may not seem as serious but they build your muscles in a different kind of way.

Also, like any other service provider, the quality of personal trainers isn't consistent. You might benefit from a bit more shopping around here.
posted by bernardbeta at 10:19 PM on July 12, 2014

I have played basketball for most of my adult life and am now 38. I also have run for exercise during most of that period. With both of those activities I cycled in and out based on what has been going on in my life, but I have rarely been away from either activity for more than 3 or 4 months at a time.

I have not had any knee surgeries. My most significant injuries have been broken fingers and a severely sprained Achilles tendon, both suffered from basketball. I do have tibial band syndrome, which hurts quite a bit, from overtraining on running when I lived in Ireland. It was so flat and cool there I could just run and run and run...

Anyway, I am approaching an age where injuries are more common and soreness is more common. My wife got me started on something that has been a real eye opener. She started free weight training about a year ago and after awhile convinced me to do it with her. It has made significant contributions to my strength, of course, but maybe more importantly I have significantly strengthened my core, hips and knees, all with no impact training. The two key exercises, both done with a bar and weights, not on a machine, are squats and deadlifts. I did practice the form of these lifts for quite a while with low weights (less than 75 pounds).

My tibial band syndrome has decreased almost to the point of disappearing. It would probably disappear entirely if I was a bit more diligent about stretching. I can now run on the spur of the moment for greater distances with less or no pain.

Just a suggestion. Good luck!
posted by Slothrop at 4:41 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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